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Dedicated to design: Games in his studio with his ATS poster

In life, as in art, Abram Games was a great believer in symmetry. It is there in his emblem for the Festival of Britain: a helmeted Britannia above a four-pointed compass. It is there in his poster for the Dig For Victory campaign where a garden spade ready to turn over a vegetable patch is mirrored in a battleship on choppy waters. It is there, too, in the cover he designed for Penguin's edition of Flames in the Sky, Pierre Clostermann's collection of Second World War air battles. An unblinking pilot gazes fixedly ahead while a blazing plane, superimposed over his flight goggles, plummets to earth. 

Games would have been pleased then to discover that on the day marking celebrations for the centenary of his birth, July 29, 2014, his family were also toasting the birth of his tenth great-grandchild. The evenness of the two births falling exactly 100 years apart would have appealed not only to his sense of symmetry but also to his delight in teases and happy chance. 

Games was born in Whitechapel in the last few hot days of peace before Britain entered the war in 1914. His father Joseph may have been a Latvian émigré photographer and his mother Sarah a seamstress from the borders of Russia and Hungary, but Games (the family had anglicised the Jewish Gamse) always considered himself a Cockney. 

He was educated at the Grocers' Company School in Hackney Downs, though he was not a natural scholar. In one report from his final year, showing the unerring instinct some teachers have for underestimating their pupils, he was described as "lazy, indifferent, careless, untidy" and that his drawing was, at best, weak.

At 16, after two unsuccessful terms at St Martin's School of Art (paid for by his parents as he had failed to win a scholarship), he decided to make a go of things on his own. He attended life-drawing classes at the Royal College of Surgeons and learnt studio discipline from his father. 

As he walked between his home in East London and the Royal College in Lincoln's Inn Fields, he took a keen interest in the posters pasted on London's advertising boards. He found little to inspire. "The general standard," he later said, "was mediocre traditionalism."

He worked for a while at a tight-deadline, churn-them-out, please-the-client commercial advertising firm but was dismissed after he was caught attempting a standing jump over four chairs. His studio boss told him that his work was ahead of its time by ten years. "I cannot wait ten years," was Games's characteristically impatient response. 

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